The Nehru Centre, London
It is over thirty years since I first saw Conrad Rooks’ seminal, cult film of psychedelic breakdown and recovery, Chappaqua, on late night british television. In this strange and bewildering masterpiece, black and white, hand held cinematography reflecting the shambolic nature of the so called real world and the protagonist’s fractured state, gives way to a brief colour interlude of spiritual revelation in which a goddess like silent brunette in a virginal white dress traipses through a sunlit forest. The scene is soundtracked by a two minute Ravi Shankar composition of flute, harp and percussion. That piece of music has haunted me through the ensuing decades and in times of stress and worry I often try to recapture (and to some extent recompose ) it in my mind. This evening, thanks to Elfic Circle Project Producer and Manager, R. Rovers, I was able to come close to experiencing it again through the entrancing Elfic Circle Trio, comprising Andrea Seki on Harp, Catherine Dreau on Vibraphone and Fabrice De Graef on Irish Bansuri flute (in which the key holes are in the irish style and the rest of the flute is Bansuri in terms of its craft and origins).
Presented by Jay Visvadeva for the Sama Arts Network and PRSSV, a charity involved with promoting all areas of Indian Music and Dance, this recital was one of exquisite transportation. Music being the purest and most effective of all the creative forms worked its magic over this much treasured hour. It is rare that a concert of any sort becomes a privilege but so it was tonight, when witnessing the purety of intent as shown by these musicians along with the expertise of their performance.
Their new album, BARDIK SPRINGS, is to be released in November and tonight was the second introductory recital, preparing the way for its release. Mixed and produced by that great seminalist of the post punk, ambient era of innovation, Artist, Bassist, Collaborator and associate of everyone from World Music Masters to The Orb to Paul McCartney, Youth, the material played just a few hours previously to these words being written led and connected a devoted and enthused audience towards a sense of reformation and transcendence. The future of music and how we receive it has been a source of debate for some time. Here, tonight, was a glimpse of a much sought future,brought about through the most traditional of means; craft and the containment of beauty.
As the audience settled, Fabrice De Graef led the trio through the opening pieces of the forthcoming album, Voyage to Karnataka and Prelude; both atmospheric Bansuri led evocations of sacred sites and the effect of seeking such places out. The Bansuri flute is a long, slim, wooden tube, with no valves, only holes and the seated De Graef, a powerful, yet peaceful, noble looking Frenchman immediately commanded the space. The technique and soul of his playing was served impeccably by the gentility of Seki’s harp and Dreau’s vibes, and without realising it fully, the audience were being given a unique entree to a world that we in our divided and metropolitan state often deny or ignore on account of our social and spiritual ignorance. After a brief introduction by main composer, Andrea Seki, we were taken into the programme and album and in so doing, immediately transported. I was, as the first notes sounded, taken right back to the neglected glow of my forgotten television set, and the Shankar piece, which over time has become a window to another world of intoxication.
The album, Bardik Springs is a result of the Elfic Circle Projects’s journey and studies throughout India, Kashmir and French Brittany and as the performance continued, with the trio accompanied and beautifully complimented by Sitarist Christian Nocon and Tabla player Sachin Khetani, we, listening were able to relive and experience all these musicians had seen, felt and heard.
The harp’s driving insistence on the opening of On Beach Nectar, put me in mind of the Canadian Windham Hill label and its stars, William Ackerman, Michael Hedges and Liz Story, and showed how this Indian styled music, played- apart from Sachin Khetani – by non Indians transcended its own voicings to do what all great music does; become one voice and one total means of expression. De Graef’s breath extended into and beyond the notes he played, which allowed for bursts of Harp struck revelation, made all the more magical by the tastefulness of Dreau’s vibraphone. The piece arced and weaved around us, powered by Nocon’s Sitar, testing and tasting the air and allowing us as listeners to walk the sands that these musicians did. The nectar was ours to imbibe.
Breton Vedic Trance, a fusion of French and Indian textures started with a sonorous harp figure. It was uncanny as the sense of a voice was inferred and with it, a deeper sense of consultation, as if the composition and arrangement of notes created a voice that was consulting and engaging with its subject. There was an awareness created of knowledge and experience being both offered and shared and Seki’s incantatory vocalising emphasised that. In this piece of music, reflective of a specific time and place something was being created that would last in the mind far longer than it possibly would in the ear. The Bansuri line continued in and out of sound as De Graef conjured and consorted with the muse through the beauty and sheen of slim wood.
On the road to Tappani opened with a cyclical harp figure that also implied motion as we echoed the musicians previous travels. It was simple but intoxicating, as all great music is and should be, with the flute melody driving us on. A sudden scattershot break in rhythm and melody gave the impression of the journey moving from the road, uowards into air and I instinctively felt a true sense of aural levitation. A key change in any piece of music, if it comes at the right moment alters our inner harmonic and I felt the uplift of change along with the chime of engagement. As the piece developed and rotated in structure and effect, I heard a lyric, expressed – if it doesn’t seem too much of an oxymoron – musically. Its meaning was deepened by repetition and then subtle variation and the end result to my way of thinking, was that here was a piece of music teaching the heart in the school of the ear.
Rozaball Secret began with a series of musical;ascensions and confirmations as Sitar and Tabla substantiated the piece’s eternal and ultimate claim on spiritual truth. As the piece developed, it implied fast moving but graceful montages of visual experience; glimpses from the road of revelation and recovery; spells we might sing deep within.
Andrea Seki informed us that These Days In Srinagar, was prompted the ancient songs of the Bardik tradition and the voyages and struggles of love, and indeed the opening harp passage epitomised both the complexities of feeling and understanding of what love is, along with the preparations for that journey of discovery. Seki’s harp was precise, passionate, beautiful. Dreau’s accompaniment emphasised support and womanly inspiration and De Graef enquired onwards into the chain of sound, all due to the magic of breath. A sung piece, containing evocative and memorable verses, such as ‘In the silent night of Srinagar/I feel the secrets of this time/In these days of Srinagar/ I feel my heart within the stars,’ that allowed the lyrics to fuse with the music in more of a compositional way, than in a standard song form, and this helped to enhance both piquancy and context..
The album’s title track opened with glorious rolling cascades of harp, that played with rhythm and tempo and I instinctively glimpsed a variety of rotating and revolving images, from a child cartwheeling down a soft and forgiving hill in slow motion, to abstracted shapes suggesting externalised auras cleansing and restoring the space around them. These reverberations and inferences, allowed for a deepening of each image, as glistening vibraphone implied the glamour of a sun christened sea.
The closing interpretation of a classic Indian Raga, Raga Bhimpalasi united the entire quintet in a tribute to the music that inspired them. The fruit of their past studies tasted fresh in the momentarily jasmine infused air, creating a new form of teaching for us all. The conversation of strings between sitar and harp were celebrated by De Graef’s muscular flute work and dignified by Dreau’s vibraphone. Khetani’s palm on the tabla pushed forwards as his fingers arced and tapped out the measures of life. Revelation was induced and celebrated and we on a close London night were taken in hand and transported back in time, over time and despite time to lands that though they may seem far away, are in actuality as close as the dream that attends the nightly closing of our eyes. Indeed, this music and the people playing it were the conveyors and translators of night, moving the attainments of dream directly in line with the day.
Musicians like this are the reasons for Art. In meeting them briefly afterwards, they were as generous and humble and as devoted to the ideas that formed them as you would want them to be, Sadly this is often not the case in other areas and forms of contemporary practice. The Elfic Circle Project leads us back towards an ancient chain of discovery, in which we can marry the shallow concerns of everyday life with something hopefully longer lasting. Music as reminder that we were once so much greater than this.
It should be said that these were my impressions of a concert, having never heard the trio before. I am attempting in a few words to encapsulate instrumental and partly voiced pieces to give you the reader an impression and to do what I can to prepare the way for the album. It will doubtless have all of Youth’s expert understanding of sound and its attendant aims and possibilities, but the purety and skill of its players are what I wish to convey. Musicians like this are the greatest artists of all because they have nothing to hide behind, unlike actors and many current artists. In conversation, they were as delightful and devoted as I’d hoped, and their producer/manager, R. Rovers’ devotion to them was extraordinary. We fall into a trap in this country around our artists, both in terms of who we celebrate and how we choose to celebrate them. These six people gently relocated what we should all try to feel about artistic endeavour and showed in a just few minutes that this is clearly a project of worth..
A filmed interview and album review will follow. I thoroughly recommend this music, but I’m sure you, the reader have worked that out already. When the Album arrives it will show that the difference between so called New Age and packaged World music and that which truly comes from an authentic time and place is simple: style and substance are the fruit of two separate trees.
Look carefully. The sun has reflected itself on the water and is as we speak changing leaves.
David Erdos 28/9/16
NOTE: BELOW YOU WILL FIND A LIVE PERFORMANCE EXCERPT FROM ‘BARDIK SPRINGS,’ THE NEW ALBUM’S TITLE TRACK, ALONG WITH A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY FOR THE PROJECT AND THE COMPOSER AND HARPIST, ANDREA SEKI AS WELL AS THE PROGRAMME FOR THE RECITAL.
ALL SUPPORT AND INTEREST IN THE ELFIC CIRCLE PROJECT IS MOST WELCOME.
Andrea Seki and Elfic Circle
Elfic Circle is a project started in 1998 in French Brittany by Celtic and Neo-Celtic Harp player composer and author Andrea Seki. Andrea belongs to a new generation of the contemporary bardicharp tradition. Elfic Circle gathers performers from different musical backgrounds. The band is currently collaborating with Youth (Martin Glover) toward the publication of a new release. The current tour is offering a preview of Elfic Circle’s next release.
Andrea Seki comes from an ancient family with seven generations of musicians, was born in the heart of the land of the Etruscans, in Italy. He began his musical journey at the age of 12 years. When still 18 he recorded his first album “A desecration of art”, an experimental mixture of acoustic and electric strings, vocals and ambient sounds.
In 1995, after a decisive encounter at a festival in Italy with Alan Stivell, he took the path of the Celtic harp, and moved to Britain,to study further the art of Bardic Harpin the National School of Music of Brest and through collaborations with other artists like Myrdhin. He uses ancient techniques like Clairseach (Gaelic harp) and researched the Irish Gaelic, traditional Celtic and Breton music.
In 1998 he founded “ELFIC CIRCLE PROJECT”, an association of musicians in search of a new sound original, which released several albums and various ensembles. Andrea travelled across Atlantic Europe carrying its blend of musical cultures from Britain to Ireland, via Galicia, Scotland. He studied the roots of Indo-European music. Andrea graduated in 2000 at the School “Prayag Sangit Samiti” Allahabad, His for Celtic harp’s research continues today. Andrea has made ten albums, six with the Elfic circle project
The Elfic Circle Project
This showcase concert is produced by Elfic Circle’s management in association with Sama Arts Network and PRSSV. The Elfic Circle trio, harpist Andrea Seki, Bansuri Fabrice De Graef and vibraphonist Catherine Dreau will introduce their new Album ‘Bardik Springs’ in the Theatre at the Nehru Centre on Wednesday 28th September, 2016 at 6.30pm.
The Elfic Circle trio will be joined by sitarist Christian Noçon and Tabla player Sachin Khetani to present the following programme.
- Voyage to Karnataka, a piece with sounds recorded from the streets of the town, in the airport, temples and so on. The Band will enter the stage with the songs on speakers.
- Prelude An atmospheric introduction to the album by Fabrice’s Bansuri flute.
- Om Beach Nectar was composed on (and it is dedicated to) the Holy Beach of Gokarna. It represents the essence of the place.
- Breton Vedic Trance is an original fusion of Breton and Vedic textures.
- On the road to Tattapani starts in a Himalayan dancing mood, and evolves into a progressive suite.
- These Days in Srinagar. A Bardic love song, it flashes back into Andrea’s life.
- Rosaball secret. Poetical introduction to a Celtic walk inspired by the enigmatic secret kept in Srinagar.
- Bardik Springs. Dreamlike surrealist and oceanic piece composed by Andrea Sekie and Catherine Dreau.
- Raga Bhimpalasi. Bardic interpretation of this monumental classic Raga.
Bardik Springs, a World Folk Progressive album is due to be released later in 2016. It has been composed and recorded in India and the Kashmir (India), where, in 2014, Andrea Fabrice and Catherine travelled extensively. It was completed in French Brittany and, among others, uses collaborators such as Irish percussionist David Hopkins and the Breton poet Bruno Geneste.
This album has been mixed and produced by Youth at Dragonfly studio in London (UK). Youth is a very well-known music producer and bassist, a founding member of ‘Killing Joke’ and a founding member of ‘The Fireman’ along with Sir Paul McCartney, producer of Pink Floyd’s latest album ‘The Endless River‘ and for many other albums for bands such as The Verve and The Orb.
Andrea Seki Harpist
Fabrice De Graef Bansuri
Catherine Dreau Vibraphonist
Elfic Circle preview their new Album ‘Bardik Springs’. For this performance they are joined by Sitarist Christian Noçon and Tabla player Sachin Khetani.
Voyage to Karnataka. A soundscape with street and temple sounds recorded in India.
Prelude. An atmospheric introduction to the album by Fabrice’s Bansuri flute.
Om Beach Nectar. Composed on and dedicated to the Holy Beach of Gokarna.
Breton Vedic Trance. An original fusion of Breton and Vedic textures.
On the road to Tattapani. A Himalayan dance suite.
Rozaball Secret. A Celtic walk inspired by the enigmatic secret kept in Srinagar.
These Days in Srinagar. A Bardic love song, it flashbacks into Andrea’s life.
Bardik Springs. Dreamlike composition by Andrea Seki and Catherine Dreau.
Raga Bhimpalasi. Bardic interpretation of this monumental classic Raga.
Bardik Springs album has been produced by the renowned music producer and bass player Youth at Dragonfly Studios, London (UK).
This event is produced by Elfic Circle management in association with Sama Arts Network and PRSSV.
For further information:
Elfic Circle Management –
e: [email protected]